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UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage list addition: the Maltese ftira
The ftira. Flattened sourdough bread that the Maltese hold very dear to their hearts as part of their incredibly rich history and culture. Finally, the Maltese ftira has received the recognition is deserves, and will be the first local product on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list.
The disc-shaped, semi-flat bread, which is made with flour, water and salt is reminiscent of a ciabatta in terms of texture and taste and yet is, somehow, uniquely different. The ftira was one of the 42 submissions made by various countries to be added to the list this year. The list included traditional music bands from Romania, Charfia fishing in the Kerkennah Islands, the Budima dance in Zambia and the pottery making tradition in Hungary.
This is the first local addition to the list, which seeks to recognise and also protect items, events and traditions that form part of a culture’s heritage. In its application, the ministry of Culture highlighted the ftira’s cultural impact, saying: “it fosters a shared identity in Malta, bringing people together in homes and workplaces.” They also noted that the bread required intensely skilled bakers to shape it by hand.
“Our work to ensure that the way ftira is made is safeguarded and the prestige around the bread begins now,” a food historian told local news outlet Times of Malta. “It is crucial that the Maltese and Maltese bakers adopt a certain mindset when we produce the ftira, to ensure that the quality remains up to standards.”